Case Die

In Ghana many public transportation vans (trotros) and taxis carry short statements – epithets, axioms, proverbs, verses of Christian or Islamic Scripture… One which I recently saw simply said “Case die.” It is a Pidgin English statement which means “The case is dead.” In normal usage is often refers to cases that end without proper resolution… often on a technicality that prevents it from moving forward. Its colloquial synonym is “A foolish case.” But it also sometimes refers to a case that ends because its basic invalidity has been exposed.

I was pulled in to a children’s Sabbath school class recently to help answer a question posed by one of the children. He had asked why God did not extinguish the rebellion with one fell swoop and destroy the new devil early on. At least that morning the two teachers in the class obviously belonged to that large class of adult Christians  – which sometimes includes myself – who ask the same question. Why indeed?

Of course several explanations have been given. Some of them have actually become theologies. Of all those I have heard – form the monistic suggestion that God was quite truly finished with the work of creation on the sixth day and then left it to do and become whatever it would be and be controlled and attacked by whichever person, to the utterly naive proposition that all the ills in the world are of purely human origin – I have come to find only one that is both reasonable and has a natural sounding ring of truth to it.

It is simply this, that an esteemed angel once raised a case in Heaven, and it has not yet been fully heard. His charge was simple, straightforward, and heavy: God might appear to be benevolent and democratic, but he was really capricious and unreasonable. He had invented his own idea of freedom; a freedom that was inherently restrictive and punitive; he had demeaned the notion of angelic holiness by thinking to govern angels by law, and had set up a universal order that would not allow for free expression and the flourishing of individuality. Quite a number of the angels no doubt scratched their chins at the suggestion, if they have them.

I gave the children an analogy to explain the point. It is not the best one possible, but I thought on the spur of the moment that it would do the job well enough for their young minds. Here it is.

Say you were the CEO of a global company, with autonomous branches in every country, and say one of your top level managers challenged and questioned your leadership, managing to persuade a third of your middle management team. Well you could fire him immediately, and perhaps the tide of rebellion would be stemmed for a while. But eventually someone would be bound to ask if Mr so and so of years gone by did not have a point. The mutiny would have been quashed, but the case would have been left unanswered, and alive.

Say instead you did get rid of him, but not completely. Say you did not object when one of your autonomous branches elected to accept him as their top director. Now he has a field on which to carry out his own ideas and implement his alternative policies. Say he infuses a competitive element within the organisation, gets rid of regulation and affords managers total immunity from sanction or censure. Workers feel relieved and liberated, so much so that they come to trust him completely, ceding their autonomy into his libertarian hands. Say after the first six months things start looking great over there; sales pick up and business booms.

But then say after two years of acrimonious competition, unbridled financial manoeuvring, book adjusting, unpoliced corruption and all manner of freedoms, the working environment breaks down, and there come sabotage, slander, severe wealth disparity, loss of morale, stress, health failings that incapacitate workers, strikes, management stalemates that cannot resolve the situation, and all manner of individual flourishing… and the only mutual feelings that remain are hate and suspicion.

It is quite likely that at that point, some honest members of the staff there will begin to sent letters to your headquarters – to you – asking for your intervention. It is equally likely that many of your fellow managers at headquarters will ask you to intervene. But say your answer is… he has not yet tried everything he can… there are still a few items on his list of “much needed reforms” to be implemented. Give him a little more time. But say things only get worse over time… say his every suggestion leads to more chaos.

Say at some point, when the evil has reached its full and there is nothing more to be tried, you do intervene, take over management, reinstate law and order, dismiss the rogue manager in accordance with the statutes, clean up the mess, remove corrupt officers and actually move your headquarters there, bringing along with it a time-honoured efficiency of operation and a breath of new life.

It is quite likely that at that point people will come to see the wisdom in your style; the sense of your leadership. It is quite likely that no one will ever scratch their chin and wonder whether Mr so and so of years gone by actually had a point. Case die.

They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”– Revelation 6:10

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Agana-Nsiire Agana is a theologian, communicator and writer. His passion is for communicating eternal truth in a contemporary context which is influenced by postmodern, secular thought. The gospel, though unchanging, can and should be expressed in terms of the challenges, philosophy and language of the present day.